Friday, February 12, 2016

When Government Makes Your Choices for You – You End Up with No Choices

Federal regulation of the internet

The old politician saw is: “The most dangerous place for you in Washington – is between (fill in name of pol) and a camera.” We’ll coin a government saw: “The most dangerous place for you anywhere on the planet – is government between you and the free market.”

Any and every tax, law and regulation – is government placing itself between you and the free market. And, conversely, between the free market and you. And, of course, it makes the market less free. It’s inherent. The bigger the tax – the less money you have for the market, and the less money marketeers have to operate. The bigger the laws and regulations – the less freedom we and the marketeers have to maneuver.

Think of government as a straight jacket. The bigger government is – the tighter are the arms constricting the marketplace.Straitjacket-rear

We have spent years now warning you of the unbelievably narrowing nature of the ridiculous regulation known as Network Neutrality. Which is an all-encompassing government straight jacket locked onto the Internet. So huge is this regulatory power grab – it makes the government the preemptive decider on all things Internet marketplace.

We Net Neutrality realists warned of a Mother-May-I regulatory regime. Where every once-free marketeer would be reduced to having to ask government for permission before trying anything new – otherwise known as innovating, a crucial component of a free market.

Net Neutrality proponents repeatedly denied that this obvious reality – was an obvious reality. Now that the Barack Obama Administration has slammed Net Neutrality down upon us – this obvious reality is playing out. The once-free market – is now totally un-free.

Rather than testing new ideas in the marketplace to see if We the Consumers will like them – the marketeers must first go to our government overlords and see if they will approve them.

To wit: Zero-rating. A fancy phrase for a routine free market feature. Zero-rating toll-free phone numbers – are the companies you’re calling paying for the calls so you don’t. Zero-rating free shipping – is the companies from whom you’re purchasing paying for delivery so you don’t. Under Net Neutrality, bandwidth hog companies paying for their bandwidth so you don’t – may be outlawed.

We don’t yet know – our government overlords haven’t yet decided. So the $1 trillion Internet marketplace twists in the wind – while we await permission to try zero-rating online. Uncertainty is a huge bane of the market – Net Neutrality is uber-uncertainty on steroids.

On the Web – the biggest bandwidth hog is video. So we’re talking companies like Netflix and Google’s YouTube (who together, all by themselves, consume half of all U.S. bandwidth). To address this, different cellular phone companies want to try different variations of zero-rating.

T-Mobile’s Binge On would allow you unlimited access to twenty-four different video-intensive sites (with more likely to come) – without them counting against your data cap. (Their list includes Netflix – not Google’s YouTube.) Verizon’s FreeBee would allow any company that wishes to pay for their bandwidth (or per-click, another routine marketplace wrinkle) and join Verizon’s unlimited list plan (that list too would likely grow).

All of which are new and innovative ways to try new pricing models – and address the bandwidth shortage issues the market faces (largely because of government failure). All of which means We the Consumers would be able to afford to do a whole lot more Web surfing – which is good for us, and for every Web company on the planet.

This would be a free marketplace – where We the Consumers choose which plans we prefer. If we watch a lot of YouTube, we’d probably stay away from T-Mobile and choose another provider that includes YouTube in their package. If we don’t care about YouTube, but like Netflix – T-Mobile may be the one for us. Different providers would provide different packages – and constantly update them to make them as attractive to us as possible (for instance, T-Mobile might rush to add YouTube should it prove to be a popular offering).

We the Consumers would have the power. To determine which plans succeed – and which do not. We would have maximum choices – at the lowest price.

Government and its absurd Net Neutrality take this vibrant, choice-rich prospective marketplace – and preemptively strangle it in the crib. Rather than trying out Binge On and FreeBee on us – T-Mobile and Verizon have to beg our government overlords for approval.

Which makes it far less likely we will see either program – or any others from any other providers. Why subject yourself to the time-and-money-waste and egregious annoyance of genuflecting before government – all for permission to offer We the Consumers more for less? These companies don’t need the headache – and can’t afford it.

And how likely is it that an uber-regulatory government that slammed us with Net Neutrality – will be in an un-regulatory mood when it comes to these zero-rating plans? I am not particularly optimistic.

The result of this Net Neutrality inanity? Far fewer choices for us – at much higher prices. (See: ObamaCare.)

And ultimately, just one choice – government: “(T)he ultimate goal (of Net Neutrality) is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.” (See: ObamaCare.)

It is and always will be the case: When government makes your choices for you – you end up with no choices.



Maine Required Childless Adults to Work to Get Food Stamps. Here’s What Happened

One trillion dollars—that’s how much the government spent last year on means-tested welfare aid, providing cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and low-income individuals. The food stamp program is the nation’s second largest welfare program.

The number of food stamp recipients has risen dramatically, from 17.2 million in 2000 to 45.8 million in 2015. Costs have soared over the same period, from $20.7 billion in 2000 to $83.1 billion in 2014.

The most rapid growth in the food stamp caseload in recent years has been among able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs). These are work-capable adult recipients between the ages of 18 and 49 who do not have children or other dependents to support.

The Need for Work Requirements

Since 2008, the food stamp caseload of adults without dependents who are able-bodied has more than doubled nationally, swelling from nearly 2 million recipients in 2008 to around 5 million today. They gained notoriety when Fox News aired a documentary on food stamps featuring 29-year-old Jason Greenslate, a Californian who reported that he spends his time surfing and playing in his rock band, all the while receiving benefits from the food stamp program.

In response to the growth in food stamp dependence, Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, recently established work requirements on recipients who are without dependents and able-bodied. In Maine, all able-bodied adults without dependents in the food stamp program are now required to take a job, participate in training, or perform community service.

Job openings for lower-skill workers are abundant in Maine, and for those ABAWD recipients who cannot find immediate employment, Maine offers both training and community service slots. But despite vigorous outreach efforts by the government to encourage participation, most childless adult recipients in Maine refused to participate in training or even to perform community service for six hours per week. When ABAWD recipients refused to participate, their food stamp benefits ceased.

In the first three months after Maine’s work policy went into effect, its caseload of able-bodied adults without dependents plummeted by 80 percent, falling from 13,332 recipients in Dec. 2014 to 2,678 in March 2015.

This rapid drop in welfare dependence has a historical precedent: When work requirements were established in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program in the 1990s, nationwide caseloads dropped by almost as much, albeit over a few years rather than a few months.

The Maine food stamp work requirement is sound public policy. Government should aid those in need, but welfare should not be a one-way handout. Nearly nine out of ten Americans believe that able-bodied, non-elderly adults who receive cash, food, or housing assistance from the government should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving aid.

LePage’s reform puts the public’s convictions into action. The Maine reforms recognize that giving welfare to those who refuse to take steps to help themselves is unfair to taxpayers and fosters a harmful dependence among beneficiaries.

Off-the-Books Employment

The Maine work requirement also reduces fraud. The most common type of fraud in welfare involves “off the books” employment. In food stamps, as in other welfare programs, benefits go down as earnings rise.

But “off the books” employment is rarely reported to the welfare office; hiding earnings enables a recipient to “double-dip,” getting full welfare benefits he is ineligible to receive while simultaneously receiving earnings from an unreported job.

A work requirement substantially reduces welfare fraud because insisting a recipient be in the welfare office periodically interferes with holding a hidden job. Recipients cannot be in two places at once. Faced with a work requirement, many recipients with hidden jobs simply leave the rolls. No doubt, a significant part of the rapid caseload decline in Maine involves flushing fraudulent double-dippers out of the welfare system.

Government data show that many adults without children on food stamps use their own funds counter-productively. Over half of able-bodied adults without dependents regularly smoke tobacco; those who smoke consume on average 19 packs of cigarettes per month at an estimated monthly cost of $111. These individuals rely on the taxpayers to pay for their food while they spend their own money on cigarettes.

The federal government should establish work requirements similar to Maine’s for the 4.7 million able-bodied adults without dependents currently receiving food stamps nationwide. If the caseload drops at the same rate it did in Maine (which is very likely), taxpayer savings would be over $8.4 billion per year. Further reforms could bring the savings to $9.7 billion per year: around $100 per year for every individual currently paying federal income tax.

Some may argue that individual state governments, and not the federal government, should choose whether to require work in the food stamp program. But over 90 percent of food stamp funding comes from the federal government. Since the federal government pays for nearly the entire food stamp program, it has the obligation to establish the principles on which the program operates.

Requiring work for able-bodied welfare recipients was a key element of President Ronald Reagan’s welfare philosophy. It was the foundation of the successful welfare reform in the 1990s. But the idea of work in welfare has fallen by the wayside. It is time to reanimate the principle.



How Trump Smashed the Conventional Wisdom

I found the above graphic on Facebook.  It is however my long-standing habit to look up the source of quotations and citations.  As I always have a Bible within armsreach, that was easy in this case.  The quotation is accurate but YHVH did NOT find such a man on the occasion Ezekiel describes

The conventional wisdom was that Donald Trump's candidacy is driven by disaffected working class whites. While that may have been true at one time, it's clear now that Trump's nationalist message is resonating elsewhere. According to CBS polling data, Trump dominated both college graduates and the upper income brackets.

While Trump's says things that are politically incorrect at best, and divisive at worst, he also paints an optimistic, no excuses vision that appeals to the casually engaged voter, for whom eminent domain is not a pressing issue. When faced with a GOP that they believe is either impotent or incompetent, they're choosing the man who's making bold promises and embodies success. Candidates who wish to knock him off should pay attention.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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